Elon Musk Has Terrible Phone Etiquette, Hangs Up On NTSB Chief

Elon Musk Has Terrible Phone Etiquette, Hangs Up On NTSB Chief

Talking to Elon Musk on the phone does not seem like a pleasant experience. The billionaire reportedly hung up on the head of the National Transportation Safety Board during a tense conversation regarding an investigation into a fatal crash involving a Tesla earlier this year, marking Musk’s second major blow up during a phone call this year.

Photo: Getty

According to Bloomberg, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt spoke on his interactions with Musk during a Thursday dinner with members of the International Society of Air Safety Investigators’ Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter. “Best I remember, he hung up on us,” Sumwalt said of the exchange.

Musk’s decision to cut the conversation short was confirmed to Ars Technica by Christopher T. O’Neil, the chief of media relations for NTSB. “The account of the Chairman’s remarks is accurate,” he told the publication. Tesla has yet to publicly address the report.

The contentious conversation between Musk and Sumwalt, which took place on April 11, appears to be a continuation of the beef between Telsa Motors and the NTSB over a fatal crash involving a Telsa Model X that happened in March.

The NTSB began investigating the incident to determine why the battery in the car caught fire after the Tesla X struck a highway barrier in a crash that cost the driver his life. Shortly after the investigation started, Telsa disclosed the vehicle was being guided by the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature at the time of the crash and said the driver hadn’t touched the wheel for six seconds, essentially blaming the operator for the incident.

In response to that revelation, the NTSB expanded its probe to look into any issues with the autonomous driving feature. The agency also took issue with Telsa releasing additional information about the crash before it could be vetted.

On April 12, one day after Musk hung up on them, the NTSB removed Tesla from the investigation. Telsa, for its part, claimed to have voluntarily withdrawn from the probe and then accused the NTSB of being “more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety.”

This is the second recent incident of Musk having no manners while on the phone. Earlier this week, while on a quarterly earnings call for Tesla, Musk berated analysts for asking some pretty reasonable questions of the company’s founder. At one point, he cut off a questioner mid-sentence. “Excuse me,” Musk said. “Next. Boring, bonehead questions are not cool. Next?”

At another point in the call, Musk said he has “no interest in satisfying the desires of day traders,” and advised those investors to “please sell our stock and don’t buy it.” They took his advice, and Tesla lost nearly $US3 ($4) billion in market value as its stock dropped considerably during after-hours trading following the call.

That was probably not a good idea, but more than that it’s not very polite. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Elon Musk is rude on the phone. He probably has read receipts turned on just to leave people on read when they text him, too.

Cell Phone Courtesy Month — somehow a very real and not at all made up thing — isn’t until July, but here are some solid tips for Musk, as provided by Lehigh University, that would help him come off as less of a dick during phone calls.

The university suggests trying to “remain diplomatic and polite” on calls and advises showing “willingness to resolve the problem or conflict” when necessary. “Try to think like the caller. Remember, their problems and concerns are important,” the guide says.

When ending calls, Lehigh recommends trying to close on an “up” note by telling the person on the line how much you’ve enjoyed speaking with them. The university says calls should “always end with a pleasantry,” and you should “be sure that you have answered all the caller’s questions” before hanging up.

That can be a lot to remember so here’s a shorthand version that can be applied in just about every situation: don’t be an arsehole.

[Bloomberg, Ars Technica]